15 November 2017
Despite protestations from courier firm Deliveroo that its ‘gig’ workers are happy with their terms and conditions, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) has found that a majority of riders for the firm in Camden and Kentish Town, London, want collective bargaining rights.
Following a proposal by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) for the creation of a bargaining unit among riders in the boroughs, the CAC found that the majority of couriers are in support of taking union action to negotiate better rates of pay and holiday.
This is an important finding in the context of the ongoing debate over the casualisation of work, in which many firms have claimed “contractors” such as Uber drivers, Deliveroo riders, and couriers currently classified as “self employed” are happy with the “flexibility” offered by a gig economy role and do not wish to see their employment status change.
However, the CAC’s decision is further evidence of dissatisfaction among “gig workers” about their current working arrangements, building on a raft of tribunal cases brought by people classified as “self employed” in order to challenge their employment status. In many of these cases, “gig workers” have been ruled to be “workers”, and thus eligible for basic employment rights such as minimum wage and holiday pay, mostly notably in the case of Uber.
The CAC ruled: “The Union has been able to demonstrate considerable and consistent levels of support over the unfortunately long period of this case, notwithstanding Deliveroo’s opposition to the Union’s claim, and notwithstanding the difficulties of organising and contacting other Riders and the individual nature of the work – being a one person cycle delivery rider is, by definition, a solitary activity.
“There are clearly concerns about the precarious nature of the work and the wider debate around the gig economy … we infer that the support and membership levels demonstrate an appetite and interest in collective bargaining beyond those who have made themselves visible. Many individuals supportive of a Union choose not to show their hand when an Employer is known to oppose recognition.”
However, the IGWB reported that a new contract was drawn up by Deliveroo shortly before the hearing, which allowed the company to escape contention over its riders’ employment status by allowing couriers a “right to substitution”. On the basis of this, the CAC found that Deliveroo riders cannot be deemed limb (b) “workers”.
“On the basis of a new contract introduced by Deliveroo’s army of lawyers just weeks before the tribunal hearing, the CAC decided that because a rider can have a mate do a delivery for them, Deliveroo’s low paid workers are not entitled to basic protections,” IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said adding: “it seems that after a series of defeats, finally a so-called gig economy company has found a way to game the system.”
Due to their current employment status, the CAC ruled that the Deliveroo riders have no right to collectively bargain for improved pay and conditions, but noted that there is much appetite among the couriers for change.
“From all the information before us, if the Riders had been workers within the meaning of s.296 of the Act, we would have found that a majority of the Riders in the proposed bargaining unit would support the Union’s bid for collective bargaining on pay, hours and holiday,” it stated.